WASHINGTON — As an advocate for safety and a champion for change, Willie Sandoval, a boilermaker with Union Pacific Railroad in Fort Worth, Texas, was named the 2009 winner of the Harold F. Hammond Award.
In nominating him for the Hammond Award, Union Pacific Chairman, President and CEO Jim Young described Sandoval as a teacher, coach and mentor who consistently demonstrates outstanding safety practices and a willingness to share his knowledge with others. Sandoval’s contributions to safety in the locomotive shop have helped the group sustain a sub 1.0 reportable rate since 1998, with injury-free years in 2003 and 2007.
The Harold F. Hammond Award was established in 1986 and honors an individual railroad employee who has demonstrated outstanding safety achievement during the preceding year. It is named after the late Harold F. Hammond, former president of the Transportation Association of America, who served many years as chairman of the Harriman Awards selection committee.
As a boilermaker in the mechanical department with nearly 40 years of service, Mr. Sandoval exhibits the highest degree of safety awareness in a highly skilled area that leaves no room for error – working with torches and volatiles gasses to repair and rebuild locomotives with structural damage. He also works with argon gas and is an expert in fuel tank inerting, a process that ensures tanks are rendered non-combustible. As the shop’s peer trainer, he helped develop the railroad’s Argon Gas Welding Training and led the Job Safety Analysis for boilermaker’s work.
Known for his “Topic of the Day” at safety briefings, Mr. Sandoval encourages employee feedback and fosters group discussion, even reaching out to people outside of his department to groups such as train, engine and yard employees. He recently helped roll out new safety programs, including Defensive Walking, and Ascending and Descending. He is known for saying: “Watch out for each other; everyone goes home safe.”
Mr. Sandoval also is active in his community. The parents of a child with special needs, he and his wife have dedicated themselves to helping other parents in a similar situation. He is a board member of The Arc of Greater Tarrant County, which advocates on behalf of people with developmental disabilities, and he works tirelessly to help the organization raise funds and increase awareness of available services. Beyond these activities, Mr. Sandoval volunteers with the Hispanic Debutante Association, organizing its Cinco de Mayo fundraiser promoting educational opportunities for Hispanic teens.
Seven other railroad employees were honored with Certificates of Commendation for their work in enhancing safety. They are:
— Ellis Cattan, conductor for Kansas City Southern Railways
— Lyle Evans, gang foreman with Montana Rail Inc.
— Jim Ewalt, signal maintainer, Canadian Pacific Railway
— Robby Hopkins, carman with BNSF Railway Co.
— Carl Lewis Jr., lineman with Amtrak
— Frank Sewastynowicz, signalman, CSX Transportation
— John Sobotka, engineer with Norfolk Southern Corp.